Clausewitz and Strategy in The Civil War

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Throughout history there have been few military theorists who have influenced military thinking. The military revolution that occurred during the American Civil War changed the face of warfare. The theories of both Antione-Henri Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz, the two most prominent military theorists of the 19th Century, can be seen in many aspects of the conflict. While Jomini’s tactics played a large role on the battlefield, the strategic concepts of Carl Von Clausewitz best characterize the nature of the Civil War. The writings of Clausewitz proved prophetic in three distinct areas: the strength of the defense over the offense, the concept of “Total War” used by General Grant, and the theory of war as an extension of policy.
The first area where Clausewitz better characterized the nature of the Civil War was in how he viewed the strength of offense in relation to defense. There is little doubt that the Civil War proved Clausewitz’s assertion that the defense is the stronger form of war.
Jomini advocated that the “offensive was almost always advantageous.” I believe this is due to his experience with, and admiration of, Napoleonic-era tactics and weapons. Clausewitz viewed the opposite and stated in his writings that the terrain gave the defender a decided advantage.
There were many advances in weaponry, such as rifled muskets, during the Civil War. The increased accuracy and range made repeatedly attacking an enemy using Napoleonic tactics very difficult. Combatants slugged it out at an average of 116 yards; only slightly longer than the 80-100 yards usually seen with smoothbore muskets and half the range these rifles were capable of. Casualties were especially heavy at the 1863 Battles of Shiloh and Antietam. ...

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